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tion of Providence, our way cannot but be prosperous. "Lord, we will follow thee whithersoever thou goest." Human conduct is a woeful inversion of this rule. We torment ourselves about the event over which we have no power, and trifle with the commandment with which alone we have to do. We neglect our duty, and then foolishly and impiously complain that we are unkindly dealt by, when Providence promotes not, or crosses our inclinations. Let us shew cheerful and unreserved compliance; and be the issue what it may, whether our wishes be opposed or succeed, we shall at least have the consolation of reflecting, that the miscarriage is not chargeable to our own perverseness or folly. It is a dreadful, it is a twoedged evil, at once to lose our aim, and incur the just displeasure of God by disobedience. "Thy will," O Father, "be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XV. 1, 2.
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my Father's God, and I will exalt him.
To no one man has the world been so much indebted for rational pleasure and useful knowledge, as to the inspired author of these sacred books. Moses, as he is the most ancient, so he is by far the best writer that ever existed. Never in one and the same character were united talents so various, so rare, and so valuable, He may without hesitation be pronounced, the most eloquent of historians, the sublimest of poets, the profoundest of sages, the most sagacious of politicians, the most acute of legislators, the most intrepid of heroes, the clearest sighted of prophets, the most amiable of men. The qualities of his heart seem to strive for the mastery with those of the understanding: so that it is difficult to determine whether, as the reputed son of Pharaoh's daughter, as a voluntary exile from the splendour of a court, as the sympathizing friend of his afflicted brethren, as the bold protector of virgin innocence, as the contented shepherd of Jethro's flock, as the magnanimous assertor of Israelitish liberty, or finally. as king in Jeshurun, ruling the thousands of Israel with meekness and wisdom-he most challenges our admiration and praise. Had the world never been favoured with his works, or were it now to, be deprived of that precious treasure, the loss were inconceivably great. Who does not shudder at the thought? What a fearful gap in the history of mankind! What a blow to take, what a blank in science, what an impoverishing of the public stock of harmless pleasure, what an injury to the dearest, the best, the everlasting interests of mankind!
The venerable man, who has for so many evenings past condescended to delight and instruct us by the relation of events the most singular, interesting
and important, assumes this night a new character; and in strains the sweetest and boldest that bard ever sung; in verses the loftiest that the imagination of poet ever dictated, rouses, warms, transports the mind. We forget the distance of three thousand years. We feel ourselves magically conveyed to the banks of the Red Sea. We join in the acclamations of the redeemed of the Lord, as this song of Moses swells upon our ear. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots, and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone."* How wonderfully suited to each other, the event and the celebration
In fulfilling the promise made in the conclusion of the last Lecture, and executing the business of the present, three objects are proposed. First, to attempt a vindication of the history of the passage of the Red Sea, from some objections which have been ade to the credibility or miraculousness of it. Secondly, to make a few criticisms on the sacred hymn which was composed on the ccasion, and now, in part, read in your hearing; in the view of pointing out a few of its more striking beauties. And, thirdly, to make a few remarks on sacred poesy in general, tending to evince its superiour excellency ; and to point out the delicacy and difficulty of attempting to amplify or imitate what the inspired poets have written, as helps to devotion. In the first I shall, without ceremony or apology borrow the assistance of the pious and learned author of Dissertations, historical, critical, theological, and moral, on the most memorable events of the OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT history,―James Saurin, late minister of the French church at the Hague. In the second, I shall submit to be instructed by an ingenious, pious and eloquent professor of rhetoric in the university of Paris, who has made choice of this passage, expressly for the purpose of exemplifying the majesty, beauty and simplicity of the scripture style. And in the third, I shall do little more than transcribe from an elegant, penetrating and instructive moralist of our own age and country.
If we collect the several circumstances of this wonderful piece of history, it will readily be acknowledged, that there is here presented to the mind one of the greatest, or rather a series of the greatest miracles, which the hand of Omnipotence ever wrought in behalf of any nation. It is not therefore to be wondered at if the enemies of revelation have endeavoured to sully their lustre, and impeach their credibility.
Three methods have been employed for this purpose-To ascribe these events to natural causes-To put them on a footing with others related in profane history, and to represent them as contradictory and inconsistent. Three bulwarks of infidelity; as many grounds of triumph for truth.
First, these events, which we ascribe entirely to the almighty power of God, have been accounted for from the common and natural operation of cause and effect. Eusebius has preserved and transmitted to us a fragment from an ancient author, Artapanes,|| to this purpose: "Those of Memphis, one of the chief cities of ancient Egypt, allege, that Moses perfectly understood the country; that he had accurately observed the ebbing and flowing of the sea, and took advantage of the retreat of the tide to lead the people over. But they of Heliopolis relate the matter differently, saying, that while the king was pursuing the Israelites, Moses, by the command of Heaven, struck the
* Exodus xv. 1, 19, 5. + Tom. i. Disc. xlix. § Johnson's life of the poet Waller.
Rollin Bel. Let. Tom. ii. Eloq. de Liv. Sacr.
waters with a rod, upon which they immediately separated, and left a spacious and safe passage for that great multitude; and, that the Egyptians attempting to follow them the same way, were dazzled and confounded by preternatural fires, lost their way, and by the reflux of the sea, were overtaken in the midst of the channel, and thus all perished either by water or by fire."
Now, granting to this quotation all the force that unbelief can give it, this evidently appears upon the face of it, that Moses has vouchers of his divine legation, even in Egypt, even among the idolators themselves. If the Memphites accuse our historian of endeavouring to make a natural pass for a miraculous event, the Heliopolitans acknowledge that it was preternatural, and ascribe it to an immediate interposition of Heaven. And this concession is important, when we consider that it comes from the mouth of an enemy.
Again the supposition of the Memphites must be rejected by all those who pay any regard to the authority of Moses, and of the other sacred writers. He himself indeed admits, that the effect was forwarded by the assistance of a strong east wind. And whatever he ascribes to that, may seem so far to derogate from the greatness of the miracle. But it is no less true, that he throws out nothing like an insinuation that the passage of the vast host of Israel was produced by the intervention of second causes. And all the inspired authors, who, after him, have mentioned it or alluded to it, acknowledge only a supernatural agency. Thus Joshua, who was an eyewitness and a party deeply concerned in the event. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over : that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty that ye might fear the Lord your God forever."* Thus, Psalm lxvi. 6. "He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot; there did we rejoice in him." And lxxviii. 13. "He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through, and he made the waters to stand as an heap." And cvi. 9. "He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so he led And Heb. xi. 29. them through the depths as through the wilderness." By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned." So that Moses, Joshua, David, and Paul, have but one and the same opinion on this subject.
But farther, the essence of a miracle does not always consist in counteracting or suspending the laws of nature. One of the most contemptible of the adversaries of religion has weakly imagined,† that by a single objection he was able to invalidate one of the bulwarks, and shake one of the pillars of revelation. "These miraculous effects," says he, "are referred, by the confession of scripture historians themselves, to the operation of second causes. It was by warming the body of a child, that Elijah brought him to life again. It was by applying clay, or dust mingled with spittle, to the eyes of a blind man, that Jesus Christ restored him to sight. It was by a wind, that Moses brought locusts upon Egypt, and obtained a passage through the Red Sea." To this it is replied-That the most common and natural things become miracles, when they present themselves precisely at the time and in the manner prescribed by Him who commands their appearance, for the confirmation and establishment of a certain doctrine. What so natural and common, for example, as to see the sun shining one moment in full and unobstructed glory, and the next darkened and concealed by clouds? But if a person publishing a new doctrine as divine, should undertake to prove his mission by changing the appearance of the bright orb of day, at his pleasure, and by shewing him either in unclouded majesty, or eclipsed and shorn of his beams, according as
* Josh. iv. 23, 24.
Spinosa Tract. Theol. Polit. Cap. vi.
he gave the word; and should we behold this very ordinary natural phenomenon actually and uniformly obeying the mandate, would not such an event, however natural in itself, become preternatural and miraculous from its circumstances? Thus, there might be occasion for the influence of the wind, to favour and facilitate the passage of Israel. But, how was it possible for their leader, by mere human sagacity, to discover that a wind from such a quarter, springing up exactly at such an hour, should harden the bottom of the deep?
But, supposing the philosophy of Moses sufficiently accurate to assure him, that at such a time he might in safety march over his cumbersome retinue; could it inform him also that Pharaoh and his captains would certainly be mad enough to follow him through that dangerous route? Could it assure him that the rashness of the tyrant, and the law which regulated the flowing of the sea, would exactly keep time, so as effectually to produce the destruction of his whole army? The flux and reflux of the tide were known to Moses; but, was it entirely unknown to the Egyptians? What, in so great an army, led by the sovereign in person, in a land renowned for natural knowledge, was there no man astronomer enough to know, that the difference of a few hours is every thing in a case of this sort; that to be in such a spot, at such a time, was inevitable destruction? Incredible! impossible!
Finally, it is altogether inconceivable that the space of three or four hours, the utmost that an ebb merely natural could have afforded them, was sufficient for the transition of such an astonishing multitude as that which Moses conducted. The learned Calmet has so fully demonstrated this point,* as to enforce the conclusion, that no degree of human knowledge could have disclosed to Moses a foresight of the events which proved so propitious to him. Not therefore to the superiority of genius, but to a power divine, the praise is to be ascribed. And to the same principle we must recur in order to explain the mighty difference which Providence puts between the Israelites and the Egyptians, in the midst of the Red Sea.
Attempts have been made to debase the dignity of this great event, by reducing it to the level of similar appearances recorded by profane historians. That degenerate son of Israel, Josephus, first started this objection. These are his words; "this," speaking of the passage of the Red Sea, "I have related with all the circumstances, as I find them in our sacred authors. Nobody ought to think it an incredible thing, that a people which lived in the innocence and simplicity of the first ages, might have found a way through the sea to save themselves. Whether it was that the sea itself opened it for them, or whether it was done by the will of God: since the same thing happened long after to the Macedonians, when they passed through the sea of Pamphylia, under the conduct of Alexander, when God thought fit to make use of that people for the destruction of the Persian empire, as it is affirmed by all the historians who have written the life of that Prince. However, I leave all men to judge of this matter as they think fit." Thus far Josephus.†·
The other instances which some presume to be put in competition with this, are the approach of Scipio with his army to the attack of New Carthage, by means of an extraordinary ebb at the change of the moon, recorded by Livy a similar ebb of the river Euphrates, related by Plutarch, in his life of Lucul lus; and, a flood altogether as singular, upon the coast of Holland, in the year 1672: which kept up for twelve whole hours, and was apparently the means of preserving that republic from the consequences of a joint attack of the fleets of England and France. It is handed down to us in the life of the famous admiral De Ruyter, who had the command of the Dutch squadron at
+ Antiq. Jud. Lib. ii. Cap. vii.
* Dissert, sur le passage de la Mer Rouge.
Lib. xxvi. Cap. xlv.
that time. Neither your time nor patience admitting of an inquiry into the truth of these several facts, we satisfy ourselves with observing, that admitting them to be true, not one of them is any way worthy to be compared with the Mosaic account of the passage across the Red Sea. The pointed and particular prediction of Moses; the rod employed, and the instantaneousness of the effect; the facility and speed of the passage; the rashness of the Egyptians; their tragical end; every thing in short concurs to render this an unparalleled event. And nothing but an immoderate desire of depreciating the miracles of the sacred history, could have attempted to diminish this celebrated transit into a comparison with any of the other events which are alluded to.
The third objection is, to the truth of the history; pretended to be taken from the history itself. The time allotted by Moses, by his own account, for the congregation, consisting of so many myriads, to pass over, is considered by the objectors as much too short for the purpose. But in order to support it, they are obliged to go into uncertain, fanciful and unsupported conjectures, about the breadth of the Red Sea at the place where the passage was opened. They make the breadth of that passage just what it suits their own arbitrary conjecture and calculation. They must needs constrain a great multitude, in very peculiar circumstances, unaccustomed to discipline, stimulated by fear, and borne on the wings of hope, to move with the leisure and deliberation of a regular army. They will not deign to acknowledge the power and grace of the Most High in every part of the transaction. They overlook the descrip tion given of that people, Psalm cv. 37. as a people full of strength and vigour, and "not one sickly among them." They, forget what God himself soon. after says of them, "You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagle's wings, and brought you unto myself.' We conclude, that as the case taken all together was singular, unprecedented, and followed by nothing like it; so the particular circumstances of it are likewise singular and unexampled, and will, with every candid person, bear out Moses, the sacred historian, against the charge of being inconsistent with himself.
We proceed to the second object which we proposed, namely, to point out a few of the more striking beauties of the sacred song, which was composed and sung in grateful acknowledgement of that great deliverance which we have been contemplating. What will undoubtedly give it a high value in the estimation of many is, that it is the most ancient morsel of poetry which the world is in possession of: being three thousand three hundred and thirty-seven years old, that is, six hundred and forty-seven years before Homer, the most ancient and the best of heathen bards, lived or sung. But its antiquity is its slightest excellency. The general turn of it is great, the thoughts nobly simple, the style sublime, the expression strong, the pathos sweet, the figures natural and bold. It abounds throughout with images which at once strike, warm, astonish, and delight. The occasion of it you well know. The poet's view is to indulge himself in transports of joy, admiration and gratitude, and to inspire the people with the same sentiments. Accordingly he thus impetuously breaks out,
Verse 1. "I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." Here the tremendous majesty of God the deliverer, and the lively gratitude of the people saved, the leading object of the piece, are placed instantly and powerfully in sight; and they are never dropt for one moment, to the end. I, in the singular number, is much more energetic and affecting than we in the plural would have been. The triumph of Israel over the Egyptians did not resemble the usual triumphs of nation over nation; where the individual is overlooked and lost in the general. No; every thing here is peculiar and personal. Every Israelite for himself reflects with joy on his own chains now forever broken in pieces.